FIFA World Cup 2018: Team of the Round of 16

Team of the Round of 16

The first round of knockouts in the World Cup was one full of surprises. It was a terrific spectacle, the matches were exciting and passion was oozing through the players and coaches. Tempers flaring more than ever; it was football at its dirtiest, grittiest form and it was beautiful. There were a few players who failed to perform, but there were a number of players who stood above the rest.

Here we take a look at the best eleven players from the knockout stages of the World Cup.

(GK) Kasper Schmeichel – Denmark

Kasper Schmeichel had his best game for Denmark yet against Croatia in the round of 16 but unfortunately lost the tie in the penalty shootout. The Leicester stopper saved a Luka Modric penalty in the 115th minute to take the game into penalties where he further stopped 2 shots.

(RB) Thomas Meunier – Belgium

The PSG right-back played in of the most exciting games as Belgium pulled off an impossible comeback from 2-0 down to beat Japan 3-2. Meunier was crucial for the Belgians as he worked laboriously the whole of 90 minutes and provided the assist to the 94th-minute winner.

(CB) Yerry Mina – Colombia

Yerry Mina was one of the best players in not just the round of 16 but the whole tournament. The 23-year old Barcelona defender scored a crucial goal to draw against England and take the game into penalties, which the Colombians unfortunately lost. That goal was also his third goal in three matches in this World Cup.

(CB) Jan Vertonghen – Belgium

Tottenham stalwart, Jan Vertonghen inspired Belgium‘s spectacular comeback against Japan by scoring the first goal for the Belgians in the match, urging his teammates to grab the impossible victory.

(LB) Ricardo Rodriguez – Switzerland

The Switzerland and AC Milan left-back charged down the left flank launching a barrage of crosses (17) and 4 shots against the Swedes. Rodriguez was one of the better players in a rather abysmal Swiss side but failed to take his side to the quarter-finals. 

(CM) Ivan Rakitic – Croatia

The Barcelona engine, Ivan Rakitic showed another hardworking and obstinate display as he guided Croatia to the quarter-finals, scoring the winning penalty against the Danes.

(CM) Casemiro – Brazil

Gritty, tenacious & effective as ever, Casemiro showed he had exactly what it takes to win and more as Brazil knocked Mexico out of the World Cup. The Real Madrid man not only highlighted his outstanding defensive capabilities but also his creativity by providing 3 key passes. 

(RM) Kylian Mbappe – France

Often scoffed for carrying a pretty substantial price tag at a rather young age, PSG‘s Kylian Mbappe proved to be worth his weight in gold, nay, platinum. The 19-year old had much to do to justify his £175 million price tag and he did just that and more in this World Cup, especially the match against Argentina where he won the first penalty which was converted by Griezmann and further scored a brace to send Argentina packing.

(LM) Neymar – Brazil

Neymar had not been performing like the God the Brazilians think him to be, instead he was getting called out for not performing in the World Cup and diving a bit too much. The game against Mexico where he scored the first goal was a start towards redemption for the PSG star. Not much improvement in the on-field antics though.

(ST) Edinson Cavani – Uruguay

The 4th PSG star on the list, Edinson Cavani scored a brace to send Portugal home. The 31-year old striker scored the opener and the winner in the match that ended 2-1 for Uruguay.

(ST) Harry Kane – England 

Skipper Harry Kane was instrumental to England‘s victory yet again as a close match against Colombia ended in a penalty shootout in their favour. The Tottenham striker converted a penalty once in the 2nd half and again in the shootouts. Which led the England fans all around the world to sing It’s coming home.

FIFA World Cup, Highlights: Croatia 1 – 1 Denmark [3 – 2 Penalties]

Croatia 1 - 1 Denmark

Croatia beat Denmark 1-1 [3 – 2 Penalties] as the match ended in a penalty shootout.

In a tournament packed with excitement and enthusiasm, this match was no less. When players like Mathias Jorgensen and Mario Mandzukic scored at either end within the first four minutes, everyone knew it was going to be a good game.

There came an air of expectation with Croatia’s ‘golden generation’ team,  which includes Modric, Rakitic, and Ivan Perisic, who was expected to rise to the occasion but there was very little spark or flair in  Zlatko Dalic‘s team after the first goal.

However, Croatia reserved their place in the last eight alongside Russia, who they will compete in Sochi on Saturday, and they will need to find a more profound method of attack if they are to break down Stanislav Cherchesov’s resilient defence.

Denmark head coach Age Hareide may have felt sad after his players showed more desire to win the game in normal time, but when it led to the penalties Ivan Rakitic scored the decisive penalty after Luka Modric had a spot-kick saved late in extra time.

After saving from Modric, Denmark goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel produced two saves in the penalty shoot-out but saw opposite number Danijel Subasic keep out three, including from Nicolai Jorgensen to set up Rakitic to seal the 3-2 win.

Croatia lucky to get the win

Croatia were magnificent the last time they played in Nizhny Novgorod, humbling Argentina 3-0 but they were just a mere shadow of that side on Sunday. They seemed to lack energy and ambition and their ability to pass and tackle a well-drilled opposition was limited.

Modric had informed before Sunday night’s encounter that the Danes would provide a “stern test” and his words confirmed prophetic. The Real Madrid man had come into this match with a history of several excellent displays but he and fellow influential midfielder Rakitic were really below par on the pitch.

Modric’s evening was possibly summed up when he missed the chance to snatch a late victory from the penalty point. In one of the few bright spots of his evening, he had played a beautiful through ball to Ante Rebic, who seemed determined to score after adroitly rounding Schmeichel before he was brought down by goalscorer Jorgensen with the empty net gaping. But Modric struck his kick at a good height for a keeper and Schmeichel, diving to this left, managed to retain the ball.

Croatia had been dumped out of Euro 2016 by Portugal in the last 16 after granting late in extra-time and, as Denmark went into the shootout with their flags up, it did look as though they might experience late heartbreak again.

But they persevered – debatably, fortuitously – and remain alive in what is seen as the favourable half of the draw, with none of the teams left in Fifa’s top 10 rankings.

Back in Euro 2016, Croatia fumbled out on winnable ties against Poland and Wales – and they do not want to do pass up an opportunity to go far again.

Denmark almost replicated the class of 98

The Danes had only once previously reached the last eight of the World Cup – losing to Brazil at France 98 – but Age Hareide’s side can count themselves unlucky to have fallen against Croatia.

They sparked the match into life with their first-minute goal, which saw Huddersfield’s Jorgensen shoot between the legs of two Croat defenders and beat Subasic with what was a rather saveable shot. It came after a long throw from Ipswich’s Jonas Knudsen and was very much made in the English Championship. And they can barely be accused of playing to their strengths of defensive organisation and looking to capitalise on long throws and the rare opportunities that came their way.

Christian Eriksen – who never lacked purpose and effort but was a mostly peripheral figure – clipped the top of the goal in the first half and Denmark were unquestionably the more aggressive side in an appalling second half.

Denmark made a tremendous contribution to the poorest game of the competition so far when they and France played out a jointly convenient, dull goalless draw in their final group match. But they cannot be blamed for spoiling this tie in Nizhny Novgorod, although in truth they reasonably exit the World Cup at a stage that is equivalent with their ability.

FIFA World Cup: Croatia VS Denmark Combined XI

Croatia VS Denmark Combined XI

A Combined XI of the players in the Croatia VS Denmark clash

The upcoming clash between Croatia and Denmark, who are not too different in matters of quality, will be an exciting one to watch. Read More

Here we pick the best players from both the teams to make a combined starting eleven.

(GK) Kasper Schmeichel – Denmark

Not undermining, Danijel Subasic‘s quality in any manner; Kasper Schmeichel just seems like a bigger name on the pitch. The Leicester City stopper had made a difference in many a game and would add quality to any squad.

(RB) Sime Vrsaljko – Croatia

Atletico man Sime Vrsaljko has been on the path of constant improvement and cemented a place in the high-profile Croatian team. He edges over Henrik Dalsgaard as the trusty right-back of the team.

(CB) Andreas Christensen – Denmark

Christensen has become one of the most talented prospects in the world. At the age of just 22, he has played regularly for Chelsea and Denmark, both of the sides brimming with quality players.

(CB) Dejan Lovren – Croatia

Dejan Lovren is the rock of Croatia’s defence. The passion he has is clearly seen on the pitch as he makes more than brave tackles, clearly proving his respect for the badge. The Liverpool man, who has been crucial for his country till now, will hope his team can surprise the world.

(LB) Ivan Strinic – Croatia 

The AC Milan defender has been a consistent performer for both club and country in the last year. Strinic gets a place in this team ahead of Larsen.

(CM) Ivan Rakitic – Croatia

Rakitic has had a steady career growth after his move to Spanish giants, Barcelona. The midfielder is arguably just as important as his teammate Modric for his country but is often overshadowed by the skipper.

(CM) Luka Modric – Croatia

The Real Madrid maestro is loved by all the Croatian fans for his contribution to their side. The captain of the side has invariably led his team to the last 16. Modric is the pinnacle of ‘Croatia’s golden generation’.

(CAM) Christian Eriksen – Denmark

One of the most underrated players in world football, Christian Eriksen can claim a spot in any team in the world. The Tottenham playmaker is a gem for both his club and country.

(LW) Ivan Perisic – Croatia

Inter Milan talisman Ivan Perisic, is another key player in the deadly Croatian side. The hardworking winger has registered a goal for his country and will look to add more.

(RW) Ante Rebic – Croatia

A wonderful strike against Argentina and a string of threatening performances have increased Rebic‘s value. The Frankfurt winger will hope to take his team further with the same fighting spirit he always shows.

(ST) Mario Mandzukic – Croatia

Juventus striker, Mario Mandzukic has failed to register a goal in this World Cup yet but will but will hope to make his mark in Russia soon. 

FIFA World Cup 2018: Barcelona players going to Russia

Lionel Messi Philippe Coutinho Samuel Umtiti Marc-Andre Ter Stegen Barcelona

With the World Cup just around the corner, the fans are brimming with immense joy and excitement. Some people just need another reason to search something about the World Cup. We tend to connect the things that we love; one way is to look for players who represent our clubs in the World Cup and add another few countries to the list of teams to support in the upcoming World Cup. This article will look at one club FC Barcelona and the 14 players who are off to Russia.

Here are the players from FC Barcelona who will be playing in the FIFA World Cup 2018

ARGENTINA: Lionel Messi 

Argentina faces a tough group with Croatia, Nigeria & Iceland. The current holder of the Golden Ball (2014 Brazil) and five-time Ballon d’Or winner Lionel Messi had an immensely prolific season finishing ahead of Mohamed Salah and Cristiano Ronaldo as Europe’s top scorer. Often considered as the best footballer in history(debatable), Messi has been voted FIFA’s player of the year on five separate occasions. Argentina’s all-time leading goalscorer and captain will be making his fourth World Cup appearance at Russia 2018. The 30-year old has scored 64 goals in 124 matches for Argentina.

BELGIUM: Thomas Vermaelen 

Belgium has been tipped for greatness for several years now, with the Red Devils possessing blistering potential in a superb crop of players. Their golden generation is not getting any younger, however, and their fans will be hoping they can hit their promised heights at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia. Thomas Vermaelen has been a fringe player after his transfer to Barcelona but he has 63 caps for his country and is still a relatively more important player for the Belgian National Team.

BRAZIL: Philippe Coutinho & Paulinho 

Brazil is considered to be one of the most powerful sides going to the 2018 FIFA World Cup. It is believed that all Brazilians are born with the gift of playing football and it is hard to disagree with the statement seeing the never-ending amount of gifted Brazilians in world football. Coutinho is one such Brazilian who is one of the most technically gifted players in the world. He has the ability to go past defenders with a certain flair and pick out the runners with amazing through balls. He has scored 9 goals in 36 matches for Brazil and will look to add to his tally in the upcoming World Cup.

Paulinho is the second player joining the Brazil squad after Coutinho and can be looked at as his less shiny version. He is a rugged central midfielder who likes to cover as much as grass as possible in the 90 minutes he plays. The 29-year old performs his best in the yellow shirt and has already scored 12 goals in his 48 appearances for the country.

COLOMBIA: Yerry Mina

Jose Pekerman’s side will face Japan, Poland, and Senegal in Group H. Colombia is poised to finish on the top of the group. In terms of who will advance to the knockout stages, the battle between Poland and Colombia could prove pivotal. Yerry Mina is new to the Barcelona side and is considered a hot prospect, his performance in Colombia’s campaign will be detrimental for his stature among other high-profile youngsters. At the age of 24, Mina has already earned 12 caps for his country.

CROATIA: Ivan Rakitic 

One of the more important matches would take place on the 21st of June this year between Croatia and Argentina, The duel between Ivan Rakitic and his Barcelona teammate, Lionel Messi will definitely prove to be one of the many intriguing subplots to what will be just the second meeting between the two nations on the global stage. Rakitic has earned 91 caps for Croatia and is undoubtedly one of their most important players.

FRANCE: Samuel Umtiti & Ousmane Dembele 

France is in a relatively easy group with Peru, Australia, and Denmark, all of them considered to be leagues below France. Samuel Umtiti has been a key player for the French National team since his performances in the 2016 Euro Cup. At the age of 24, he has earned 18 caps for his country and also cemented his place in the first team in the process.

Ousmane Dembele is one of the hottest prospects in world football, after his mega-money move to Spanish giants Barcelona, he has earned a spot in 23-man French World Cup squad. The 21-year old has already played in 11 matches for his nation and will hope to add more to his tally.

GERMANY: Marc-Andre Ter Stegen 

Joachim Low’s reigning champions will face Mexico, South Korea, and Sweden in Group F. Die Mannschaft will be looking to defend their title as the World Cup champions of 2014. Ter Stegen had an amazing season for Barcelona with 19 clean sheets out of his 37 games. The German International built his stellar performance to the extent that some fans believe that he deserves the no.1 shirt ahead of Manuel Neuer.

SPAIN: Gerard Pique, Sergio Busquets, Andres Iniesta & Jordi Alba  

Spain is in one of the most competitive groups in the upcoming World Cup with Iran, Morroco and UEFA Euro 16 winners Portugal. Piqué was a key figure in defence and a natural leader for Barcelona’s back line. He is set to partner Sergio Ramos and form one of the deadliest defensive duos in the world. The 31-year old has earned 97 caps for his country and is sure to reach a century in the upcoming World Cup.

Sergio Busquets recently passed a century of caps for his national team. One of the most experienced and disciplined footballers in the world today, the defensive midfielder is a guaranteed starter in the amazing Spanish midfield.

The scorer of the winner in Spain’s last World Cup victory, Andres Iniesta still continues to have an impact on the squad. With 13 goals in 126 matches for the Spanish National side, he’s been selected in the squad for the upcoming World Cup as well.

The Spanish full-back is considered to be one of the best defenders in the world. His composed defensive style as well as ability to burst down the flanks and link up with attackers flawlessly makes Alba a complete full-back. The 29-year old holds 61 caps for the Spanish National team. 

URUGUAY: Luis Suarez 

With two-time champions, Uruguay looking like the team which will most likely top Group A, The 2nd place will most definitely be contested strongly among Russia, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt. A prolific striker for club and country, Suarez is Uruguay’s all-time leading goalscorer. A European and world champion with Barcelona, the forward has scored five times at the FIFA World Cup, having starred at South Africa 2010 and Brazil 2014. The 31-year old will be looking to add to his tally of 51 goals in 98 appearances for his country.

Messi hits peak form ahead of the World Cup

Lionel Messi Argentina

Lionel Messi scored another hattrick as Argentina battered Haiti 4-0 in a pre-tournament friendly in Buenos Aires.

The Argentinean forward broke the deadlock in the 17th minute with a well-struck penalty and further added another two to complete his hattrick in the 66th minute. Manchester City striker Sergio Aguero scored the final goal from a classic Messi assist as Argentina equaled their historic record of four goals against Haiti. After the match ended, Messi exclaimed that his team were excited and working hard for the upcoming World Cup.

“I have no doubt that we are going to grow, we have time, this team is going to take shape. We have been working hard on the physical, I think we have a nice opportunity to try again, we are going to be very excited, as always,” Messi said after the match.

The two-time world champions had struggled throughout the qualifying campaign but the thoroughly dominating display here should serve as a drastic boost to their morale, even though the win came against a side that has not qualified for the World Cup. Javier Mascherano joined Javier Zanetti as Argentina’s most capped player with 143 international appearances.

Sampaoli highlighted the enthusiasm of Messi and mentioned that he was training well with the squad. With his 3 goals, Messi took his international tally to 64 goals in 124 appearances.

The Argentina Coach was upbeat about his superstar, saying, “Messi is training very well, he finished the Spanish tournament and two days later he was here, he looks very enthusiastic”.

Argentina is in Group D along with Iceland, Croatia, and Nigeria. One of the more important matches would take place on the 21st of June this year between Argentina and Croatia, two of the strongest teams in the group as they lock horns at a World Cup for the first time since 1998 when Argentina edged to a 1-0 win. Lionel Messi going head to head against his Barcelona teammate, Ivan Rakitic will definitely prove to be one of the many intriguing subplots to what will be just the second meeting between the two nations on the global stage. The meeting could prove pivotal in deciding who qualifies and claims the top spot.